18 U.S. Code § 1952 - Interstate and Foreign Travel or Transportation in Aid of Racketeering Enterprises
The Travel Act, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1952, makes it a federal offense to travel in interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of furthering an unlawful activity.
This federal law was initially supposed to give the federal government a tool to fight organized crime, such as a criminal enterprise operating in one state and committing crimes in another.
However, in today's society, the Travel Act has evolved, and federal prosecutors often use it to indict people in conjunction with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
The Travel Act Prohibits travel in interstate or foreign commerce or the use of mail or any facility with the intent to distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity, commit any violence, or promote, manage, establish, or carry on criminal activity.
The term “interstate commerce” primarily gives the federal government the jurisdiction to prosecute the alleged illegal activity. This means there must be some connection between interstate or foreign commerce for the Travel Act to apply, which is often debatable.
The prosecutor must show that you intended to facilitate an activity you knew was "unlawful” under federal or state law. They must also show that you performed, or attempted, to perform an act to distribute the proceeds of unlawful activity, etc.
What Does the Federal Law Say?
Let's review some of the statutory language of this federal law called “Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises.”
18 U.S.C. 1952 says, “(a) Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mail or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent to:
- (1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or
- (2) commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful activity; or
- (3) otherwise promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on of any unlawful activity….”
For purposes of the Travel Act, unlawful activity means any business enterprise involving gambling, liquor on which the federal excise tax has not been paid, and narcotics, or controlled substances as defined in the Controlled Substances Act.
It also includes state law prostitution offenses, extortion, bribery, arson, or “any act which is indictable under subchapter II of chapter 53 of title 31, United States Code, or under section 1956 or 1957 of this title.”
The Travel Acts – Quick Facts
Let's review some important facts about 18 U.S.C. 1952, known as the Travel Act, such as the following:
- The Travel Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Kennedy in 1961 to combat organized crime.
- The initial basis behind the act was to close a possible loophole where a crime boss could live in one state, conduct illegal business in another, and be exempt from criminal prosecution by either state.
- This federal law prohibits engaging in foreign or interstate travel to promote, manage, or facilitate the carrying on of unlawful activity, distribute criminal proceeds, or commit a violent crime to further illegal conduct.
- The terms “unlawful activity” can include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, liquor distribution to avoid tax, prostitution, bribery, extortion, etc.
- The DOJ has recently used the Travel Act to prosecute specific fraudulent healthcare kickback schemes.
- To convict you, prosecutors must prove you used the mail in interstate commerce, that you traveled across state lines or borders for unlawful activity, and that you carried out the activity or attempted to do so.
- A conviction under this law carries up to five years in federal prison. If violence or death is involved, it carries up to 20 years or even life in prison. There are also fines, asset forfeiture, and other penalties.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 95 Racketeering has numerous federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1952 interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1951 – Interference with commerce by threats or violence;
- 18 U.S.C. 1953 – Interstate transportation of wagering paraphernalia;
- 18 U.S.C. 1954 – Offer, acceptance, or solicitation to influence operations of employee benefit plan;
- 18 U.S.C. 1955 – Prohibition of illegal gambling businesses;
- 18 U.S.C. 1956 – Laundering of monetary instruments;
- 18 U.S.C. 1957 – Engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity;
- 18 U.S.C. 1958 – Use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire;
- 18 U.S.C. 1959 – Violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity;
- 18 U.S.C. 1960 – Prohibition of unlicensed money transmitting business;
What Are the Legal Defenses?
Suppose you are accused of violating the Travel Act. In that case, our federal criminal defense attorneys could use different strategies, as discussed below.
Maybe we can argue there was a lack of intent. To convict you, federal prosecutors must prove you acted knowingly and willfully with intent to promote, manage, or facilitate an unlawful activity.
Maybe we can show that you were unaware of the criminal aspects or did not know you were transporting money from illegal activity. Perhaps we can argue the government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute the case as the activity did not cross state lines or international borders.
Maybe we can negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or a case dismissal. If guilt is not in doubt, perhaps we can arrange a favorable plea bargain but are prepared to take the case to trial if necessary.
Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation and to review the legal options. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.